May 30, 1996


U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The Docket Office/Docket Officer
Docket No. R-02
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20210

OCCUPATIONAL INJURY AND ILLNESS REPORTING REGULATIONS

Dear Docket Officer,

The following comments by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) are submitted in response to the Federal Register notice of February 2, 1996, "29CFR, Part 1904 and 1952, [Docket No. R-02], et al; Department of Labor - OSHA; Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements; Proposed Rule.

First let me introduce the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). ASSE is the oldest and largest Professional Safety Society in the United States. Our membership currently numbers over 32,000 dedicated safety professionals. Included in this membership are Certified Safety Professionals, industrial hygienists, occupational nurses, and an impressive collection of other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds with broad representation in levels of business, government, and the international arena, (Attachment A). We pride ourselves on our dedication to excellence, expertise, and commitment to the protection of people, property, and environment of the United States.

To this end, we would like to offer the following comment on the proposed rule:

ASSE supports the current effort to revise the injury/illness recordkeeping requirements. Our membership has commented in the past that the current system is ambiguous, difficult to manage, and does not meet the spirit and intention of the original OSHAct. We believe that recordkeeping is an important tool which safety and health professionals can use to identify hazards and efficiently/effectively correct them. It should be recognized that the entire injury/illness collection system has significant impact on employers, labor, and the federal government. We view both the current and proposed rule as having value in that: 1.) Employers use such data as a tool to identify hazards and implement successful control methods, and strive for continuous improvement, 2.) labor uses the data as a way of measuring safety and health in the workplace by focusing their efforts on areas which are in need of improvement, and 3.) the federal government (OSHA), uses such data when promulgating/enforcing appropriate standards as well as focusing inspections. Since such a system is used by many stakeholders it is crucial that there should be maximum credibility for all potential data users. We believe that OSHA has a unique opportunity to improve the system, and by working together with all stakeholders, OSHA is in the position to show it is committed to reinvention and partnership, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4030).

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

ASSE has great concern with the requirement in 1904.6 Preparation, Certification and Posting of the Year-End Summary - Responsible Company Officers (RCOs) and Dual Certification. (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4060).

a). The concept of dual certification is worthy of consideration, however, the following concerns need to be addressed:

  1. OSHA needs to clarify what an RCO should know or is expected to know when dual certifying data. Further clarification needs to be made as to whether an RCO would be open to criminal prosecution for events which they may have no control over.
  2. The standard is of particular concern to firms which have large numbers of employees, or numerous locations.
  3. ASSE recommends that certification of records by the most senior manager on a company site meets the intention of the regulation.
  4. Departments of organizations which have traditionally compiled such statistics will treat the designation of RCO as a responsibility they do not wish to deal with due to the liability/litigation concerns.

b.) Detrimental impact to the focus which should be placed on safety and health.

  1. The employee who initially compiles the report might be faced with severe workplace pressure due to the liability/litigation implications of the regulation. ASSE believes the long range impact of the regulation is that the focus will be on legal compliance instead of safety and health.
  2. With more emphasis being placed on legal considerations instead of safety and health, some employers may perceive it is more prudent to use the services of legal counsel instead of safety and health professionals. The end result is the potential of increased numbers of injuries and illnesses.

OSHA Access to Workplace Evaluation/Audit Records

OSHA has defined that workplace evaluations, audits, and inspections are included as part of the documentation records which would be made available to them upon request. We oppose this provision due its potential detrimental impact on safety and health in the workplace,(Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4060). If such a policy were to be instituted, employers will be encouraged to take the following actions, resulting in minimal utilization of safety and health professionals, thus, actually driving down the level of safety and health:

a.) Eliminate or greatly minimize workplace audits/evaluations.
b.) Provide work place inspections only after special request, (e.g.: attorney requests).
c.) Information would be tightly controlled with little distribution.
d.) Less evaluation would mean decreased need for qualified safety professionals.
e.) Decreased levels of safety and health would be the end result.

We suggest that OSHA needs to support and encourage workplace inspections and audits. This aspect of the regulation actually works against workplace safety and health. We recommend OSHA leave workplace evaluations as a private record of the company since the end result will be less employer self-evaluation initiatives due to legal concerns.

Concern With Utilization of SIC Codes.

The Society is concerned with the recent Office of Management Budget (OMB), proposal to change the Economic Classification Policy from the Standard Industrial Classification System to the North American Industry Classification System. We recommend that OSHA study what the effect would be of promulgating a new regulation partially based on SIC codes when these codes could be potentially replaced/revised with a new classification system (Federal Register Announcement 2/6/96, Part II).

Reporting/Counting of Days Away From Work.

ASSE supports the idea of modifying the requirement of reporting days away from work. The reporting of actual work days instead of calendar days would be of benefit in actually identifying the severity of injuries/illnesses. Employers have been using the current system since the early 1970s, and a change would probably cause some initial confusion and additional paperwork. Even though such a modification may cause some initial concerns, we believe the future benefits appears to merit such a change, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4033).

ASSE agrees with OSHA that counting days away from work which extend past 180 days is a significant paperwork burden for employers. A cap is justified, however, the cap should be selected in such a manner which provides meaningful data on both immediate injury and acute/chronic health statistics while reducing paperwork burdens.

Some of our members, with experience in this area, have suggested that ninety (90) days still allows collection of meaningful data while further decreasing the administrative burden/cost on employers. The goal should be to reduce current paperwork burdens while still compiling meaningful workplace safety and health statistics.

We suggest it would be appropriate to require the injury/illness be recorded within seven (7) working days as opposed to calendar days.

Clarification of the Term "Employee".

OSHA needs to further explain the term employee to better clarify the employer, sub-contractor, temporary employee relationship, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4034).

Employees on Restricted Duty.

ASSE recommends discontinuing counting days for employees on restricted duty. ASSE questions the usability of such data. However, employee data related to injuries/illness and subsequent assignment to restricted duty might be meaningful for the identification of hazards, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4046).

Small Business Exemptions.

ASSE supports exempting businesses under twenty (20) employees from the standard with some specific industry exemptions. Enforcing this regulation for businesses of less than twenty (20) employees would be detrimental to small business from the recordkeeping/bureaucracy perspective, and may not generate any significant data. ASSE wishes to clarify, however, that this position should not be interpreted to mean that small businesses should be exempted from safety and health laws. We believe that all employees are entitled to an equal level of safety and health regardless of the size of their place of employment. Exempting a paperwork requirement does not change this level of commitment.

Posting of Year End Summaries

Some ASSE members have expressed concern with the change in date requirements for posting the OSHA 300 Log. Without additional explanation, the position of ASSE would be to retain the status-quo for OSHA 300 Log posting requirements, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4060).

Employee/Former Employee Access to Records.

Many of our members have raised concerns with the following provisions of the proposed rule:

a.) Concern with the release of all OSHA 300 Log information to employees, former employees, and/or their designated representatives. There is the strong belief among many of our members that this constitutes an invasion of privacy.

  1. Requestors should only be allowed to view general descriptions of injuries and time-off from work without any personal identifiers.
  2. Employers should not show an employees name when posting the log as the release of personal histories could be viewed as an invasion of privacy.
  3. Access should be restricted to the log only, and not any medical records.

b). OSHA should examine the value of three (3) year retention of records as opposed to five (5) years when compiling meaningful statistics.

Release of OSHA 300 Log in Four (4) Hours or Less.

ASSE is concerned whether the release of such documents in four (4) hours or less can be reasonablely expected of an employer. This would be an issue of some concern to employers who utilize independent third parties to maintain records.

Appendix A - Non-Work Related Injuries and Illnesses

ASSE supports the definitions of work and non-related work injury and illnesses. The definitions protect employees while at the same time recognizing that employers cannot be held responsible for activities which an employee may pursue on his/her free time, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4063).

Appendix B - Recording of Specific Conditions (Mandatory)

Conditions captured by criteria other than tests under the supervision of a (LHCP), Licensed Health Care Provider, are not appropriate. A diagnosis should be made only by Licensed Health Care Providers, (Federal Register, 2/2/96, R-02, page 4064).

Table of Specific Conditions

In the table it is specified that any laceration requiring closure could be construed to mean the application of a standard Band-Aid. We suggest that this language needs to be reworked to exclude minor cuts and abrasions to better reflect the intent of the regulation.

First Aid Versus Medical Treatment

It would be appropriate to have both first aid and medical treatment lists.

Encouraging the Use of Technology

ASSE supports the development of recordkeeping computer systems. This is a good approach which can make the recordkeeping process much more efficient/effective.

Please review our suggestions and enclosed materials, and if I may be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me at my business phone number 847/699-2929. The ASSE appreciates your time, and I hope that together we can improve safety and health in the workplace.

Sincerely,

Lawrence E. Oldendorf, CSP, P.E.
President


LEO/TRF/CORRS403
encl.

     

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